Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 5

The big first weekend is over. Time to kick back with just a couple of movies a night for the week. A quick note: I've been trying to be better at including links/info for later screenings in the festival. But now the movies I'm seeing during the week are all their last screenings in Indiefest. That is, until Friday when a whole new week of movies start. So I'm sorry in advance if I write about a movie that sounds great but isn't playing again.

The first show started with a short, HEARTLAND TRANSPORT. In 2009, when the Iowa Supreme Court legalized marriage equality, a busload of gay and lesbian couples travelled there to make their relationships legal, and filmmaker Cody Stokes was along for the joyous ride.

That short led into the feature documentary, BONECRUSHER. Up in the coal-mining mountains of Virginia lives Luther Chaffin. Aged 61 and now retired, he was a miner his whole life (like his dad and grandpa). He was called Bonecrusher somewhat ironically because he was such a little, skinny guy. But the name is also somewhat fitting as he was as strong and indestructible as anyone. Except now that he's suffering from lung cancer. His son Lucas, against his advice, is also starting a mining career. Between Luther's visits to the doctor and Lucas' days in the mine, it's an intimate portrait of a harsh life and tender familial love. Sometimes, like at family gatherings or at the local Little League field, it plays like a home movie of people I've never met but who invited me in and made me like them right away. And yes, this is despite me being a liberal tree-hugger who wishes there was no use for mining. For that matter, I don't think there's anyone in the movie who said they wouldn't rather have a safer, easier job if it paid just as well. It's just the only thing around that pays well. Here's hoping that's not always the case.

Then I saw one of the harder (and more fascinating) movies in the festival so far, POINT TRAVERSE. Although stuff happens, it's hard to call anything a "plot." It's more about creating characters, evoking a mood, and raising questions. The biggest question being, "Is Adwin just a little weird, or is he completely psycho?" He's a manager of a local chicken fast-food joint, which might not seem like a lot, but at least he can identify the five cuts of a chicken (leg, wing, rib, center breast,...damn, I forgot the fifth) by sight and that's more than you can say for his employee. In the opening scene he meets a mysterious stranger in an orange jacket. The next day, he finds that stranger dead--murdered in the middle of a frozen field (lake?). The cops question him, and let him go, and nothing more comes of that. Meanwhile an old friend Cael comes to town. They hang out, do stuff. As I said, not so much plot-based, and intentionally so. There are powerful scenes--the suicide graffiti; getting high and admitting to his girlfriend that he fantasizes about being a woman when he masturbates (a scene I took as a joke, but as far as I can tell no one else did); smothering an old man to death with a pillow; and the amazing (and absolutely real) slicer scene. The mood it creates is mostly discomfort, a lot of doubt, and a dash of awe at a filmmaker and actors who would do this.

Total Running Time: 180 minutes
My Total Minutes. 170,053